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Theme Parks Embracing Solar Attractions

With the COVID-19 situation in the United States improving by the day, stir-crazy families are beginning to get optimistic about summer vacation plans and America’s theme parks are sure to benefit from the gradual transition back to “normal.” Not only are theme parks a long-time source of summer fun for thrill-seeking families, but many are now also budding examples of the unique potential provided by solar energy.

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

Theme parks have never exactly been noted for their low environmental impact. People often travel across long distances via car or even worse, commercial jet, to spend time at a theme park. Single use plastics and other landfill-destined consumable goods are typically in over abundance at theme parks as well. When you consider the fact that hundreds of millions of people worldwide attend theme parks on an annual basis (Over 20 million at Disney’s Magic Kingdom alone), you can understand how environmentalists might give theme parks the cold shoulder.

That is all changing now.

As the threat of climate change grows by the day and the number of increasingly eco-conscious global consumers grows with it, theme parks of the 21st-Century are taking on a different design and purpose than those of yesteryear. The Walt Disney Company is one such enterprise that is playing a leading role in blending together a message of fun and sustainability at global theme parks.

Disney’s Earth Day Announcement

The Walt Disney Company recently marked Earth Day by unveiling a renewed list of environmental sustainability commitments that placed solar power at the forefront.

Among the most notable of the company’s commitments is its plan to develop two new 75 MW solar facilities with plans to bring them online in 2 years. The planned solar projects join Disney’s other recent solar investments. The first of which was a 22-acre, Mickey-shaped solar farm built near Epcot in 2016 and a much larger 270-acre, 57 MW solar project developed in 2019. Collectively, these four solar facilities will allow Disney to produce enough solar power to cover 40% of their total annual energy consumption.

As any avid Disney fan knows, the company’s footprint extends far beyond Orlando, FL, and the company has likewise spread its solar investments across multiple global attractions. In addition to the previously mentioned Walt Disney World Resort projects, solar investments can also be noted at the following:

  1. Castaway Cay: Plans are in the works to build a solar array totaling over 4,000 solar panels at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas that will power over 70% of the island.

  2. Disneyland Resort: 1,400 solar panels sit atop the radiator springs racers attraction

  3. Disneyland Paris: Solar canopies in guest parking lots collectively produce enough energy to power a small city

  4. Hong Kong Disneyland Resort: The park’s 5,000 solar panels make it the largest solar site in Hong Kong

  5. Tokyo Disney Resort: The park generates enough solar energy to power the iconic Dreamlights Parade with solar panels installed at eight backstage locations across the resort.

Reportedly, the amount of solar energy produced across Disney’s global portfolio is enough to power over 65,000 homes for a year, or put another way, the equivalent of 8 Magic Kingdoms!

Disney’s Earth Day announcement is part of its renewed long-term vision to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions for its direct operations by 2030.

Disney Isn’t Alone

Disney is far from the only global theme park to embrace environmental sustainability. Other theme parks both in the U.S. and abroad are doubling down on environmental sustainability commitments, and some parks are even themed around the topic of climate change itself.

Six Flags Great Adventure: Thanks to a partnership with KDC Solar, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey now runs entirely on solar energy. KDC Solar was behind a multi-faceted 23.5 MW solar project that debuted at Six Flags in 2019, which ranks as New Jersey’s largest ever net metered solar project. By powering the whole park on solar energy, as much as 1.5 million tons of carbon particles are now no longer being released into the atmosphere.

DefiPlanet (France): DefiPlanet doesn’t have the name recognition as Disney, but it is arguably the world’s crown jewel of environmentally sustainable theme parks. The over 60-acre park’s whole purpose is to educate revelers on climate change. They do so in a creative and fun way that uses mythical creatures to guide families along the park on fun adventures while simultaneously warning them about the perils of a warming planet.

Photo Source: DefiPlanet

Greenwood Forest Park (United Kingdom): Six Flags in the United States can lay claim to being the first solar-powered theme park in the U.S., but it is the United Kingdom’s Greenwood Forest Park that makes that claim internationally. In 2015, the Park installed a 576-panel 150 kWh solar system that meets 80% of the Park’s daily energy needs. The solar energy system covers all of the power needs of the Park’s famed SolarSplash water slide, which is the UK’s first ever solar-powered amusement ride.

PortAventura World (Spain): The PortAventura World amusement park in Spain is yet another example of sustainable tourism done right in Europe. In 2019, the park laid claim to being the first carbon-neutral resort in the World. In 2020, they unveiled an on-site solar project that provides about one-third of the whole resort’s power needs on an annual basis. The 22,000 PV panel system is the largest self-consumption solar PV facility in Europe. PortAventura World’s sustainability commitments extend beyond just solar, as the resort also eliminated use of all plastic products on resort grounds in 2020.

Children are the future, and the future for the world’s citizens is at great risk without concerted effort to reverse the effects of climate change. Even though they are not typically the paying customer, theme parks are ostensibly venues that exist to entertain children. It is heartening to see some of the world’s most prominent theme parks embrace the opportunity to harness this momentum and further excite children about renewable energy and the importance of combating climate change.

It is no accident that children are the face of the global movement to combat climate change thanks to the global ascendance of Greta Thunberg and the emergence of youth-centric climate change advocacy organizations like the Sunrise Movement. I, for one, am optimistic that the seeds of interest in renewable energy that global theme parks are helping plant today in children across the world will bear fruit years down the line in the form of a more just and sustainable world.


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